Utilitas

Research Article

Against Consequentialist Theories of Virtue and Vice

TODD CALDERa1

a1 University of Wisconsin–Madison calder@wisc.edu

Abstract

Consequentialist theories of virtue and vice, such as the theories of Jeremy Bentham and Julia Driver, characterize virtue and vice in terms of the consequential, or instrumental, properties of these character traits. There are two problems with theories of this sort. First they imply that, under the right circumstances, paradigmatic virtues, such as benevolence, are vices and paradigmatic vices, such as maliciousness, are virtues. This is conceptually problematic. Second, they say nothing about the intrinsic nature of the virtues and vices, which is less than we could hope for from a theory of virtue and vice. Thus, we have reason to reject consequentialist theories in favour of theories that characterize virtue and vice in terms of the intrinsic properties of these character traits. Aristotle and Thomas Hurka have theories this sort.